Europe Lobbies Parliamentary Assembly on Lesbian and Gay Issues
Reaching Out: Male and Female Sex Workers
The session entitled Reaching Out: Male and Female Sex Workers brought together presenters from the US, the Russian Federation, Germany, Morocco, and the UK. In a diverse session papers were delivered on research and prevention activities targeting male body workers, male and female commercial street sex workers, and men of different social classes who have sex with men.
In the presentation from the US, Baney et. al. allowed that he and his research team were surprised that more people actually considered themselves sex workers, than he or his team had previously thought, and yet recruitment of commercial sex workers or body workers was always a challenge as they functioned in a world where distrust of others was as real an issue as the entrapment they faced.
Some of the common counselling issues faced by these men in his sample were isolation, sexual compulsion, self-esteem and self worth, personal relationships and sexual objectification by themselves and their clients.
As with a number of other countries, there is no official legislation outlawing or regulating prostitution in the Russian Federation.
Presenter Montgomery reported that in an environment which has seen a remarkable increase in sex work in recent years, a needs assessment conducted by AIDS Infoshare, an AIDS Service Organization in Moscow, demonstrated that over 90% of women working in Moscow's sex industry were from other regions in Russia and the newly independent states.
In general, female street sex workers demonstrated low levels of knowledge around health related issues and experienced restricted access to basic healthcare services. In response to a question regarding the female condom and its role in the Russian Sex Industry, the presenting author said that when they did incorporate female condoms into their workshops, they found few women had ever seen them before, but that at three American dollars for each condom, they were not accessible to female sex workers or their clients.
Recent research has indicated that lower or working class men who have sex with men are three times more likely to be HIV positive than similar middle or upper class men.
This proved a starting point for Bochow's presentation of risk exposure and risk management strategies among gay male sex workers in Germany. From interviews with both call boys and hustlers, the author was able to replicate the findings of others: that the differences found in regard to HIV and safer sex practices were similar between these two groups as in groups of lower and upper middle class gay men.
In a study of 172 men interviewed in the parks, cafes and squares of Morocco, Boushaba found that male sex workers lacked knowledge about HIV and AIDS. As with the Russian Federation study, this sample indicated that they lived in an environment of economic instability. This was one of the reasons why they were unable to negotiate prevention methods. The Moroccan men in this sample were highly likely to have recently engaged in anal sex (97%), and were equally as likely to report knowledge of condoms. However, 57% reported that they used condoms only occasionally or never at all.
To some in attendance it appeared that Dockrell et. al.'s paper from the UK comparing the outcomes of two cognitive interventions for gay men taking unwanted risks was misplaced. What did this have to do with reaching out to male and female sex workers? However, as one attendee commented: even though the population described in this paper was very different than those in the presentations that preceded it, many of the findings, such as issues around self-esteem, were similar.